Baptists in America and around the world need to focus their pastoral prayers in worship and prayers of concern in Sunday school on our British neighbors this Sunday.
We also need to re-read personally and corporately the Sermon on the Mount, remembering Jesus’ strategy for peacemaking that begins with comforting those who mourn and takes initiatives that transform conflict into common good.
Additionally, we need to speak carefully and calmly about those in the Arab and Muslim world, avoiding the temptation to generalize about and to demonize them. Christians in the Arab and Muslim worlds face enormous pressure and they expect Christians elsewhere to avoid statements that complicate and endanger their lives.
In times of terrorist attacks, Jesus’ teachings must be the guiding rule for the Christian community, not political bluster and militaristic barbarism.
Here are seven clear guidelines in the Sermon on the Mount.
1. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
2. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
3. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
4. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
5. “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
6. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”
7. “Everyone … who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who builds his house on rock.”
Jesus’ wisdom and witness must set our course in this sinful world where evil multiplies evil, anger feeds anger, injustice breeds injustice, vengeance begets vengeance.
All too soon, some within our society will speak in terms of holy war, hunting campaigns and quick strikes. When the public discourse turns from grief to retaliation, the community of faith must offer a different language and articulate different solutions.
When some rush towards revenge, those of faith must be slow to speak about retribution. When some quickly denounce Muslims and demonize them, we must avoid the false witness that universalizes harmful attributes to those of different religions. When some seek purely military solutions, we must recognize the sad duty to use force to establish justice in a sinful world is a last resort. When some ignore the social, religious and cultural soil that nourishes hate, we must seek the welfare of the poor and oppressed.
Let us till the soil and plant the seeds for peace and justice for all.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, Tenn.
Editor’s note: This revised column appeared originally on Sept. 11, 2001, responding to terrorist attacks on the United States that brought down passenger planes in New York City, Washington, D.C. and in rural Pennsylvania.